The Geochemical Evolution of Riparian Ground Water in a Forested Piedmont Catchment

Douglas A. Burns, L. Niel Plummer, Jeffrey J. McDonnell, Eurybiades Busenberg, Gerolamo C. Casile, Carol Kendall, Richard P. Hooper, James E. Freer, Norman E. Peters, Keith Beven, Peter Schlosser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


The principal weathering reactions and their rates in riparian ground water were determined at the Panola Mountain Research Watershed (PMRW) near Atlanta, Georgia. Concentrations of major solutes were measured in ground water samples from 19 shallow wells completed in the riparian (saprolite) aquifer and in one borehole completed in granite, and the apparent age of each sample was calculated from chloroflourocarbons and tritium/helium-3 data. Concentrations of SiO2, Na+, and Ca2+ generally increased downvalley and were highest in the borehole near the watershed outlet. Strong positive correlations were found between the concentrations of these solutes and the apparent age of ground water that was modern (zero to one year) in the headwaters, six to seven years midway down the valley, and 26 to 27 years in the borehole, located ∼500 m downstream from the headwaters. Mass-balance modeling of chemical evolution showed that the downstream changes in ground water chemistry could be largely explained by weathering of plagioclase to kaolinite, with possible contributions from weathering of K-feldspar, biotite, hornblende, and calcite. The in situ rates of weathering reactions were estimated by combining the ground water age dates with geochemical mass-balance modeling results. The weathering rate was highest for plagioclase (∼6.4 μmol/L/year), but could not be easily compared with most other published results for feldspar weathering at PMRW and elsewhere because the mineral-surface area to which ground water was exposed during geochemical evolution could not be estimated. However, a preliminary estimate of the mineral-surface area that would have contacted the ground water to provide the observed solute concentrations suggests that the plagioclase weathering rate calculated in this study is similar to the rate calculated in a previous study at PMRW, and three to four orders of magnitude slower than those published in previous laboratory studies of feldspar weathering. An accurate model of the geochemical evolution of riparian ground water is necessary to accurately model the geochemical evolution of stream water at PMRW.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-925
Number of pages13
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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